The president of Hong Kong's Law Society has announced his resignation in a row over moves by Beijing to tighten its grip on the region's legal system.

Ambrose Lam San-keung, managing partner at Hong Kong firm Lam, Lee & Lai, announced yesterday he was tendering his resignation 'in order to maintain the solidarity of the Hong Kong Law Society', news agency Reuters reported. 

Lam had been the subject of heavy criticism after voicing support for a white paper published by the Beijing government which is widely seen as an attack on the special status enjoyed by Hong Kong since the end of British rule in 1997.

The policy document, published by China's State Council, refers to Hong Kong's relative freedoms as a privilege granted by China rather than an automatic right. It also refers to judges as 'administrators' and that 'loving the country' is an essential requirement for the job. 

Leading lawyers have described the paper as an attack on judicial independence. The row has polarised opinion in the city-region, where elections are due in 2017.